7,000 fans flock to the first-ever Saudi Comic Con in Jeddah

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People dressed up as members of Marvel's Avengers perform on stage during Saudi Arabia's first ever Comic-Con event in Jeddah on February 16, 2017. (AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE)
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Visitors line up to enter Saudi Comic Con (SCC), the first event of its kind to be held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Feb. 16, 2017. (AP Photo)
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Saudis attend the country's first ever Comic-Con event in Jeddah on February 16, 2017. (AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE)
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People dressed up as members of Marvel's Avengers perform on stage during Saudi Arabia's first ever Comic-Con event in Jeddah on February 16, 2017. (AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE)
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A Lebanese woman poses for a selfie with a man dressed up as "Iron Man" during the country's first ever Comic-Con event in Jeddah on February 16, 2017. (AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE)
Updated 08 April 2017

7,000 fans flock to the first-ever Saudi Comic Con in Jeddah

JEDDAH: An estimated 7,000 of Saudi-based comic fans on Thursday flocked to the Kingdom’s first Comic Con event.
“Saudi Comic Con looks exactly like every other fan convention I’ve ever been to. What an amazing turnout,” said Maxwell Alexander Drake, or Drake as he prefers to be called, an American award-winning Science Fiction/Fantasy author, graphic novelist and playwright best known for his fantasy series The Genesis of Oblivion Saga. He commented on the Saudi event in a video he shared on his official Facebook page.

The three-day festival of anime, pop art, video gaming and film-related events is part of a government initiative to bring more entertainment to Saudi Arabia. Both men and women Comic Con fans attended the event.
The event was so popular that the queue to enter the building stretched for more than 100 yards when the event opened in mid-afternoon. Inside the darkened hall, rock music blared.
Some young men were dressed in the costumes of their favorite Japanese anime characters.
“Many people in Saudi Arabia like Japanese culture so much, and Korean culture,” Abdul Aziz said, calling it “amazing” that Comic-Con is taking place in her country.
The American author Drake was the first to open the sessions on creative writing and dynamic story creation. “I already knew before coming to Saudi Arabia that the youth make up a big number of the Saudi nation,” told Arab News.

Convention attendees listened carefully to Drake’s tips and advice on how to be a creative writer. Choosing the genre, theme, type of readers and many more were addressed in the one-and-a-half-hour session.
Two open panel discussions were held. The first panel featured the moderators and speakers from the “Bewitched” show and “Takki” YouTube series. The second session was hosted local directors who discussed their experience sin the film industry.
Several other discussions will be held over the two next days covering topics such as comics, video games and production.
With loud cheering and yelling, Saudis offered the warmest welcome for two “Game of Thrones” actors: Julian Glover and Charles Dance. The actors said they were impressed by the Saudis' enthusiasm in their reception.
The two prominent stars visited Saudi Arabia for the first time to mark an exceptional era in the Entertainment industry of the Kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia should have many more of these events,” said Julian Glover. “It should bring films into this country very soon.”
Comic-Con began in 1970 as a convention of a few dozen geeks who swapped superhero magazines in the US.
The event has grown in size and spread around the world, including to Saudi Arabia’s Gulf neighbor Dubai.
The government’s General Entertainment Authority has said it supports the event, organized by Saudi firm Time Entertainment, because of Comic-Con’s “strong family appeal.”
Providing more entertainment is one of the goals of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 economic diversification plan developed by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He is keen to harness the energy of a population more than half of which is under 25.
— Agence France Presse contributed to this report.

Fantastic four: Saudi women fly the flag for cycling

Updated 53 min 5 sec ago

Fantastic four: Saudi women fly the flag for cycling

  • Saudi Arabia’s first women-only 10-kilometer cycling race was held in April 2018 at the King Abdullah City for Sports in Jeddah
  • More than 70 Saudi cyclists took part in the tour, including the four HerRide members

JEDDAH: Before Saudi Arabia’s women drivers there were Saudi women cyclists. Thousands of women around the Kingdom have taken to two wheels in the past few years, and groups of female cyclists are a common sight on city streets.

Now four young women have taken cycling to a new level by becoming the first Saudi female cycling team to join the Global Biking Initiative (GBI) European tour, an annual seven-day ride that highlights the sport and raises money for a range of charitable causes.

Sisters Fatimah and Yasa Al-Bloushi, Dina Al-Nasser and Anoud Aljuraid — founder members of the HerRide cycling group — joined hundreds of cyclists from all over the world earlier this month when the tour kicked off from Gothenburg in Sweden before heading through Denmark and on to the port of Hamburg in northern Germany.

More than 70 Saudi cyclists took part in the tour, including the four HerRide members. 

The dynamic HerRide team shares a passion for adventure, and a love of outdoor activities and sports. Fatimah Al-Bloushi, the team captain, told Arab News that when she started the group in July, 2017, “we were a group of amateur cycling enthusiasts and our idea was to train to be the first Saudi female team to participate in GBI Europe 2018.” 

This year was Fatimah’s second time in the GBI tour. Last year she was the first and only Saudi woman to take part in the event. 

“I want to empower Saudi women and encourage cycling,” she said.

Fatimah also enjoys skydiving, surfing, abseiling and climbing, and is also the first woman member of the Saudi Cycling Federation. In her hometown of Alkhobar, she organizes women’s gatherings twice a week to cycle together along the beachfront. She also volunteers to teach cycling for beginners. 

Like all sports events and tours, training plays a crucial role in preparing for the GBI tour. Team member Anoud Aljuraid, an accomplished hiker and technical climber, met Fatimah two years ago while climbing the Ol Doinyo Lengai, or “Mountain of God,” volcano in Tanzania.

“For me the challenge was sitting on the bike for up to eight hours while riding up to 100 kilometers a day,” Aljuraid said. “It was also hard to maintain a certain speed to reach the next destination or nutrition point on time, but my training helped me get over those challenges.”

Although the number of women cyclists on the streets of Saudi Arabia is growing, challenges remain for those joining the sport.

Team member Dina Al-Nasser lives in Riyadh and enjoys long-distance cycling as well as hiking and boxing. Her biggest challenge during the GBI tour was cycling alongside cars.

“I mostly trained at home, but it’s hard for me to train in areas where men usually train, such as Wadi Hanifa and Ammariyah,” she said. “However, I was able to get over my fear and by the third day on the tour I was riding alongside trucks and didn’t even notice.”

Al-Nasser said that cycling is challenging not only for women in Saudi Arabia but for professional cyclists in general.

“We hope that the streets will be more bike friendly, and that people can adopt the same infrastructure for cyclists that we have seen on the tour — such as special paved paths and traffic lights — here in the Kingdom,” she said. 

“Hopefully, cycling will become a lifestyle in Saudi Arabia and we will see people cycling to work one day.” 

The Saudi HerRide women’s team celebrate a challenging stage finish on the GBI European tour. (Supplied photo)

Despite the challenges, the HerRide team say they are hoping to join the next GBI tour. “It was a great experience to cross three countries by bicycle,” Yasa Al-Bloushi said. “Of course, we got some bruises and had falls here and there, but I look at that as a sign of accomplishment.”

The team members gained valuable skills from watching other riders during the tour. “I learned how to be a part of a team and to look out for each other. It was important to listen to my team-mates and focus on their needs,” said Dina Al-Nasser.

 Fatima Al-Bloushi said that the support of her team made her second tour more special than the first. “We knew each other’s weaknesses from day one and we always had each other’s back. If our energy levels were low, someone would provide nutrition. When our spirits were down, we had music to give us a boost, and when someone was nervous, we reminded each other to have fun,” she said.

“I experienced GBI twice. The first time I went alone and came back with a family of friends. The second time I went with friends and came back with family.”

The woman said the spirit of cooperation among cyclists on the tour was empowering. “What made this experience even more amazing, besides the beautiful scenery, was the quality of people we met,” said Fatima. “If we were struggling, they would pass by with a smile, give you a pat on the back and tell you that you were strong enough to push through — it really did make us feel stronger.”

 In future, the group plans to hire a professional trainer and offer cycling workshops for Saudi women. They also hope long-distance cycling events, such as the GBI, will one day be held in Saudi Arabia. 

“Under Vision 2030, I’m sure there will be a lot of local events for cyclists in the Kingdom, including women,” said Al-Nasser.

The four cyclists have some words of encouragement for Saudi women hoping to fulfil their dreams. “You will always find people who will give you negative comments, but as long as you are doing what you love and are not hurting anyone, just keep going,” said Al-Nasser. 

Fatimah said: “Two years ago I was looking to join a cycling team, but as a woman in Saudi Arabia I was unable to — now things have changed. My advice to all women out there is never say ‘no,’ always say ‘yes’ to opportunities.”